Literature Published Before 1800




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The Seven Deadly Sins
by John Wycliffe

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It should come as no surprise that John Wycliffe (1324-1384), the first to challenge the authority of the corrupted church in a meaningful way, the first to translate the entire Bible into the language of the common man, the “Morning Star of the Reformation,” would conclude that the Gospel teaches peace and condemns any killing of one's fellow man. The fact that his pacifism is all but forgotten is an indication that the purification and restoration that began with him has not yet been completed.  This treatis is his most extensive English work on the subject.




On The Spiritual Battle
by Petr Chelčický, tr. by Charis Enns

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Petr Chelčický (1390-1460) was an early writer of the Reformation and promoted nonresistance, predating Erasmus of Rotterdam and Menno Simons by 100 years and playing a key role in the founding of the Moravian Church.  This is his first work, written in 1421.  In it he makes the case that a Christian's battle is spiritual, not physical, and that to resist the devil with his own evil weapons of war and destruction is futile.




The Net of Faith
by Petr Chelčický, tr. by Enrico Molnár

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This is Chelčický's most mature work, written in about 1443.  In it he condemns the abuses of both the Roman Church and the Hussite Protestants and expounds on his own independent true-to-the-gospel theology.  This is the only English translation of this monumental work but, sadly, it is incomplete.




Antipolemus
The Plea of Reason, Religion, and Humanity Against War
by Desiderius Erasmus

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Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) was a Catholic priest and one of the foremost authors, scholars, theologians, and humanists of the Renaissance.  In this treatise he describes peace, war, and humanity, and denounces war from a number of different perspectives.  He concludes by writing that it is the duty of a Christian to shun, deprecate, and oppose, by every lawful means, a business so hellish and so irreconcilable, both to the life and to the doctrine of Christ, and that, if war cannot by any means be avoided, it should be "chiefly consigned to bad men."




Discourse on Voluntary Servitude
by Étienne de la Boétie

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Étienne de la Boétie (1530-1563) was a French judge, writer, and political philosopher, and wrote the this essay while still a law student at the University of Orléans. In it, he advances the theory that dictators can only rule with the tacit approval of those whom they subjugate, describes why nations submit to such subjugation, and concludes that dictators can be driven from power simply by massive refusal to cooperate.




The Quaker Peace Testimony

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The Quakers, led by George Fox (1624-1691), presented this statement to King Charles II of England in 1660 following an armed revolt by other religious radicals.  At the time it was intended to remove suspicion of involvement from the Society of Friends as well as to make their position clear.  Since then it has inspired Quakers to protest wars, to refuse service when drafted, to seek conscientious objector status when available, and even to participate in acts of civil disobedience.